News Picks: Wikileaks, UK election?, Election 2012, Wikipedia, Israel

Wikileaks

US journalists back away from Assange The Miami Herald reports that more and more US journalists are shunning the Wikilkeaks founder Julian Assange amid concern about the organisation’s methods of dumping documents “willy-nilly” as investigative journalist Bob Woodward put it. There are also questions as to whether Assange is actually a journalist. An interesting read.

Election 2011?

Cameron considering a snap election? – Labour MP Tom Watson speculates (some would say wildly) that the Prime Minister may call a snap election in May. Watson cites a weary Nick Clegg, an unfulfilled David Cameron and the belief by some that the Tories could win an outright majority if they called an election given the Lib Dems’ appalling poll numbers. It’s all gossip but it’s well written and thought provoking. It also hints that embattled No. 10 communications director Andy Coulsen will be gone by the end of the month.

Election 2012

The activist Republican candidates court – An interesting piece in the LA Times about the Iowa based activist whom Republicans running for the party’s presidential nomination will all court in the build up to that state’s all important caucuses that kick off the nominee race at the beginning of next year. Joni Scotter is 69, and, it seems, very important to the likes of Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich but she has voted Democrat before.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia at 10, a pioneer of global civility – Timothy Garton Ash has some words of praise for Wikipedia which turns 10-years-old this weekend. Unlike Facebook, this internet success story is not worth billions but is a fine example of a non profit organisation that “still breathes the utopian idealism of the internet’s heroic early days.”

Israel

The rise of fanatical ‘Israeli ayatollahs’ – We all know about fanaticism in the Muslim world but what of the ultra orthodox Jewish rabbis who are becoming increasingly controversial and divise in Israel. They were even involved in the recent tragic death of ex-Liverpool defender Avi Cohen.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dems and the illusion of fairness.

Last April, I interviewed Nick Clegg on one of his two election campaign visits to Liverpool and questioned him on the issue of student tuition fees and the Liberal Democrats’ plans to scrap them altogether.

At the time he stated that his party would move to scrap tuition fees from day one in government:

We are the only party saying that we have a plan to remove tuition fees.

It is wrong, when a time that our economy is crippled by debt to ask other people to take on yet even more debt. The answer to debt is not yet more debt.

During the campaign, Clegg also signed the NUS’ pledge to vote against any rise in university tuition fees. Here he is with a copy of his pledge and as the New Statesman points out, this may be a picture that comes back to haunt the Deputy Prime Minister.

Tomorrow’s much anticipated release of Lord Browne’s review of university finances is expected to favour the introduction of higher tuition fees.

The coalition agreement provides the Lib Dems with a get out of sorts if it is determined that fees must be raised in that they are allowed to abstain on any such parliamentary vote. Yet abstention is definitely not voting against such a rise as Nick Clegg pledged to do earlier this year.

The party has certainly compromised on a lot of issues since going into government but there’s a difference between compromise and a total about turn.

A decision to merely abstain would deceive many of the young people who voted for the Liberal Democrats in the last election because of what they were saying about university tuition fees. Some would even call it a ‘betrayal’.

Off the back of Lord Browne’s report, it’s expected that most universities could increase fees to around £7,000 per year.

Some of the more prestigious universities could charge more than that whilst providing bursaries to young people from poorer backgrounds to meet the extra cost.

But this effectively creates a two tiered higher education system whereby those with more money have a much greater choice of where they go to university and what they study.

‘Betrayal’ is a strong word but what interests me more is the word ‘fairness’. We are constantly being told that the impending cuts will be fair.

But the idea of raising fees just doesn’t seem fair  at all when a generation of students and graduates will be left with enormous amounts of debt before they even start off in life.

Circus Clegg comes to Liverpool

So the choice was clear, a day doing dissertation in the library or a sunny afternoon in Penny Lane stalking Nick Clegg as he met locals, and did countless interviews, including taking a brief question from yours truly.

There was a certain thrill and excitement in the air as the nations media descended on the Penny Lane Development Trust Centre for the visit of the Liberal Democrat leader.

He’d spent the morning and early afternoon branding Gordon Brown and David Cameron as “corrupt” amongst many other things before descending on Liverpool Wavertree, where he’s hoping his party’s candidate Colin Eldridge can win the seat from Labour.

The media surround Nick Clegg in Penny Lane, Wavertree on 7 April 2010

There was my first exposure to a proper media scrum as TV cameras, photographers and the journalists all crammed for a shot of Clegg speaking to youngsters at the community centre. I even got my ugly mug on Granada last night. (After about 30 seconds in if you’re interested!)

Clegg was smooth as you like, he knew how to work the community centre people and then work the media as he was dragged left, right and centre for various interviews. Sky News even made him wait three minutes while they finished interviewing Yvette Cooper. The cheek!

And when it was all over, he jumped back on his bus, adorned with his face and that of the party’s much lauded Treasury spokesman Vince Cable, and departed Wavertree.

It was sunny, it was brief but my word, it was all very exciting for this political journalism novice!